31 Dec Visions: GE Healthcare's Brandon Savage has just what the doctor ordered
Waukesha, Wis. – As a chief medical officer for GE Healthcare Integrated IT Solutions, Dr. Brandon Savage has a big task. He’s responsible for building GE Healthcare’s clinical IT vision, driving this vision into current and future IT products, and developing integrated product solutions that promote GE’s early health model. In the following Visions interview with WTN, he explains just what doctors have on their minds regarding healthcare IT.
WTN: GE does a lot of consulting with physicians when it is developing the next generation of medical devices. Right now, what are they telling you about the problems they would like you to solve with healthcare IT?
Savage: We do have extensive collaboration with a number of doctors. That’s one of the areas where I spend a lot of focus in terms of meeting with physicians and nurses all over the country. In terms of the challenge they are facing, there are a couple of things. One, they definitely are facing the knowledge overload of all of the different new pieces of medical information coming out, and how do they build that into the practice? How do they keep up?
It takes about seven years for half the medical knowledge to be replaced, so it’s a tremendous challenge. And so they really have a strong desire to use IT to support that. The problem is that now, in many cases, information technology will put that information on a website, and that isn’t part of the way that people practice. When doctors go in to see a patient, they want to be able to focus on that patient, not jump off to a website somewhere. And so one of the areas that we’ve looked at is how do we bring information directly into the workflow of the physician, so that when a physician is managing the patient, the latest information is there, right at their fingertips, to make the right decision.
WTN: Is that being done with the current generation of products that you’re developing?
Savage: Yes, our current generation of products already has that capability, and that’s one of the things I really like, especially about our Centricity EMR product. We’re also investing a lot of effort right now to take that to the next level. We have a collaboration with InterMountain Healthcare; we have about 300 engineers just working side by side with physicians and nurses to really take that to the next level, make it easier to build that knowledge right into workflow, and make it easier to use these applications.
WTN: You mentioned there were two things doctors wanted help with. One was the knowledge overload. What was the second?
Savage: The other thing was around the complexity of deploying these IT systems. One of the challenges is that it can take a fair amount of energy for folks to start up and they are concerned about that. So one of the things that we’ve spent a lot of time on is reducing the risk of implementation, making it less risky for a physician to decide if they want to adopt an EMR, make it much less time and effort before they start getting value. It’s been a really important part for us to drive adoption successfully.
WTN: How do you do that?
Savage: We do that in a couple of ways. First off, we do that by leveraging a lot of experience we have working with physicians and what is the right way to phase the deployment. If we do too much too quickly for a given physician, they are dissatisfied. If we do it at the right pace of change, understanding the physician’s practice, they become very satisfied. We know we’re successful when they don’t want to consider having the system removed under any circumstance, where it becomes part of the way they practice. So one thing is just pacing and pacing with the physician, and it’s getting an understanding of the physician’s workflow.
The other thing is making sure that we don’t deliver any EMR that’s empty. When we start, we make sure that a lot of built-in best practices are right in the EMR, so they already have, in the EMR, forms that help them manage diabetes or congestive heart failure, things that they will see in a daily practice. That’s where we have tremendous positive feedback. We then allow our customers to share those best practices from one EMR to another, which has been a big challenge for a lot of other vendors, but an area where we’ve been fairly successful.
WTN: Are you challenged or handicapped at all with the sporadic pace of EMR adoption and patient data exchange?
Savage: I wouldn’t say that it’s handicapping us. I think the industry is moving at a certain rate, and as some of those things get easier and easier, the adoption rate will accelerate. We’ve found, at least for our portfolio, we’ve had a very healthy double-digit growth rate, and we’ve been able to meet the needs of our customers very effectively.
WTN: When it comes to IT healthcare trends from the consumer standpoint, what’s important for the consumer to know about what’s coming down the pike?
Savage: I think it’s important for the consumer to know that they are an important focus of healthcare IT. One of the areas that we focus a large amount of effort on is what I call a care team, and how we enable collaboration. One of the more important things to realize is that care teams include the patient. An active patient, a patient that is engaged in their care, does much better, is much more likely to take the right medications, is much more likely to be informed, much more likely to be healthy. So that’s where healthcare IT is today, is bringing that care team beyond just the doctors and nurses but actually bringing that patient and making them part of care.
WTN: How is that done? Through the Internet, or how else do you enable that level of consumerism?
Savage: It’s done through a couple of mechanisms. Some of the easiest ways are just having some of the right EMR tools when the patient is inside of the office. Having a patient kiosk, having the right access to information that a physician can provide to the patient so that we can make sure when that patient comes in, he or she has the most positive experience possible rather than going to the doctor and going through the same, old paper work, or having the doctor asking the same old questions. Instead, with the EMR that we have, the doctor can focus on the unique needs of that patient at that point in time and feel very connected. It really can enhance the doctor-patient relationship. But you’re right, the consumer’s reach extends beyond just the office and now there are a lot of opportunities with the Internet for those patients and consumers and people who have that type of connectivity.
Also one of the areas, looking into the future, is we see that there are opportunities for devices in the home. We’re doing a fair amount of research and development into that to actually make it so that in the home, there are devices for those chronically ill patients, and those devices could actually start gathering data. They may still need to get to the Internet, but the patient actually won’t have to have that depth of knowledge of technology to make them work.
WTN: You’re responsible for building the company’s clinical IT vision. If you had to explain that vision to a layman, how would you explain that vision as it stands now?
Savage: I would say the vision is about creating the backbone that connects patients and providers with all of the information to do the best quality care possible. So it’s about the connectivity, but it’s also about the collaboration that the connectivity enables. One of the great opportunities, why I like working for GE, is we have so much experience in so many industries in terms of making it easier to do the right thing, making it easier to fly an airplane, making it easier to build power plants, and what healthcare really needs is to make it easier to deliver quality care. So by connecting patients and enabling collaboration, we can really bring to that environment a lot of the GE best experiences and drive that positive experience into healthcare.